Wills & probate legal experts in Devon

Wills & Probate

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Wills & Probate

Giving You Peace of Mind

At Beyond Legal our experienced team do their best to make the process of making your Will or Last Power of Attorney as swift as possible. Enabling less worry for you & giving you peace of mind that your assets will be protected. With Probate matters we will work to take the burden of dealing with your loved one’s affairs from you, allowing you to cope with what is often an upsetting & distressing time. To help you understand the services & support we offer in regards to Wills & Probate, please explore the different options available to you below.

Wills

Wills are an important action no matter your age, creating a Will will ensure that your estate is dealt with by someone you trust & that your assets will pass onto people that you wish to benefit from your estate. Commonly seen as something the elderly do, we cannot stress enough how important for all ages Wills truly are, especially those with children, guardians can also be appointed for your children within a Will.

You should consider making a Will to ensure that your estate is dealt with by someone you trust and that your assets pass to the people you wish to benefit from your estate. If you have young children you can also appoint guardians in your Will.

When you make a Will you can also make sure that you take advantage of Inheritance Tax planning as well as care home fees and the protection of assets.

If you did not make a Will then your estate will pass under the laws of intestacy and this may mean that it passes to people who you do not wish to benefit from your estate. If you had no living relatives then your property will pass to the “Crown” rather than benefitting people or charities of your choosing.

When making or reviewing your Will
you need to consider the following points:

  • Who do you wish to appoint as Executors
  • Do you wish to appoint substitute Executors in case your original choice becomes unable to act for you?
  • What is the value of your assets? This will then give an indication of the size of your estate and whether you will need to consider inheritance tax planning.
  • Do you have any specific gifts that you wish to give to people or charities ie money, objects/ornaments/items/pictures etc?
  • If you have children who do you wish to appoint as their guardians?
  • Do you have any specific funeral wishes, ie cremation or burial?
  • Who do you wish to ultimately benefit from your estate and what would you want to happen to their share if they should unfortunately predecease you?

If you already have a Will you should review it at least every 3 to 5 years and definitely will need to update your will if you have experienced such occasions as marriage, divorce, separation, having children, the loss of a partner/spouse or person named as a substantial beneficiary in your Will. If your estate has increased in value you will need to consider inheritance tax planning and should update your existing Will.

If upon reviewing your Will only small changes are needed to be made then this can be done by way of a Codicil.

Inheritance Tax & Estate Planning

We are able to help you minimise the amount of inheritance tax payable on your estate, this will benefit your family & loved ones as much as possible. We keep up to date with the current levels of Inheritance Tax & therefore can assist you in calculating the amount your estate may be liable for. Following this step we can then provide advice around the various ways of mitigating the amount payable.

We can advise you about the current levels of Inheritance Tax and assist you in calculating the Inheritance Tax liability your estate may face. We can then provide advice on the various ways of mitigating the amount of Inheritance Tax payable.

Examples of reducing the value of your estate for Inheritance Tax Planning during your lifetime include such things as:

  • Gifts Made Outright (with no conditions attached) during your lifetime
  • Wedding gifts of up to £5,000 for a child
  • Wedding gifts of up to £2,500 for a grandchild
  • Wedding gifts of up to £1,000 to anyone else getting married
  • Payments for maintenance of a spouse, ex-spouse, dependent relative, child under 18 or child in full time education
  • Gifts up to the value of £3,000 in any one tax year plus any unused balance of £3,000 from the previous tax year.
  • Gifts in any tax year up to a total of £250 each to any number of individuals provided no individual receives more than £250 in any tax year.
  • Regular gifts out of income

Potentially Exempt Transfers made during your lifetime

These are outright gifts that are not covered by the above exemptions. They can be for any sum of money or be comprised of property with any value. The key requirement is that the gifts are made more than 3 years before an individual dies taper relief can be claimed which will reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax payable. . The gift will only be fully exempt if it is made at least 7 years before death.

Gifts to Charity – These are exempt from Inheritance Tax.

Business Property Relief (BPR)and Agricultural Property Relief (APR) – If you have a Business or Agricultural Land that benefits from BPR or APR then these may qualify for 100% or 50% Inheritance Tax Relief. If they do benefit from such relief then it is a good idea to make use of such exemption by gifting them to someone other than your spouse.

Lifetime Trusts – Recent changes to the Law having made Lifetime Trust not as attractive for Inheritance Tax Planning but they may still be of some benefit.

Powers of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a great source of comfort to many, they enable you to assign someone to manage your financial affairs or deal on your behalf with matters concerning your health & wellbeing should you become physically or mentally incapable. You must be 18+ & mentally capable when making this document. We are able to help you understand which LPA you require & get the document created.

 

There are two types of Lasting Powers of Attorney:

  1. A Property and Affairs LPA – this would allow whoever you appoint as your Attorneys to deal with your property and financial affairs as if they were you.
  2. A Health and Welfare LPA – this would allow whoever you appoint as your Attorneys to make decisions with regards to your health and welfare with regards to such things as accepting or refusing medical treatment including life sustaining treatment on your behalf and deciding where you will live including choosing a nursing or care home if necessary.

Who should I appoint to deal with my affairs?

You will need to choose Attorneys who you trust and who have the skills and knowledge required to deal with your financial affairs and/or personal welfare. This can be family members, friends, colleagues or independent parties such as solicitors.

You can just have one Attorney but this could cause problems if they were, for example, to die before you or lose their mental capacity before you as you would then have to go to the expense of preparing a new Lasting Power of Attorney. If you did only want one Attorney to act then you can also appoint a Replacement Attorney to act if anything should happen to your original Attorney which would help avoid the expense outlined above.

If you did wish to appoint more than one Attorney then you can appoint them to act jointly or jointly and severally, or jointly for some decisions and jointly and severally for other decisions. Once we know your circumstances clearly we can advise what appointment would be best for you in order to protect your interests.

The Lasting Power of Attorney has to be signed by an independent third party who confirms that you have the mental capacity to sign the document and that there is no other reason why the document should not be created.

Does the LPA have to be registered with the Court?

In order for the Lasting Power of Attorney to be valid and able to be used by your Attorneys it needs to be registered with the Court of Protection. There is a separate registration fee which must be paid to the court but you can obtain an exemption or remission if you are on benefits or a low income.

How long does the registration process take?

The registration process takes at least 6 weeks. Although you do not have to register the LPA at the time of preparing the document it is therefore safer to do so in the event it is needed urgently as this would avoid any delay.

Once the document is registered it does not have to be used straight away. We can store it at our offices for safe keeping until such time as it is needed.

What if I become mentally incapable and I have not registered an LPA?

If you were to become mentally incapable and you had not prepared a Lasting Power of Attorney or an Enduring Power of Attorney then an application would need to be made to the Court of Protection for someone to be appointed as a Deputy on your behalf.

The Deputy would be responsible for dealing with your property and financial affairs. If no one wishes to act as your deputy then the court can appoint someone on your behalf. There are a number of complex forms which would need completing which require in-depth information about your personal and financial circumstances. The process is quite costly (approximately £500 for the initial application and an annual fee of around £800) and lengthy which is why it is important to consider making arrangements to deal with your affairs whilst you are still mentally capable.

Registration of Enduring Powers of Attorney

If you have an Enduring Power of Attorney that was prepared prior to the end of September 2007 then provided it was correctly signed and witnessed and you are still happy with your choice of Attorneys, it will still be valid.

If you are appointed as an Attorney under an Enduring Power of Attorney and the person who has appointed you has lost their mental capacity then you are under a duty to register the document with the Court of Protection. This will involve notifying relevant family members and completing an application to Register the Power. If you need assistance or advice on registering an Enduring Power of Attorney we would be happy to help.

Deputyship

Deputyship is a suitable option when someone has lost capacity, it enables you to request for the ability to make decisions for them. This differs from an Lasting Power of Attorney as an LPA is required to be submitted by someone before they lose capacity. Gaining deputyship can require many stages & certain actions to be done precisely. We are able to support & help you through the processes.

Probate & Administration of Estates

When a Will is needed to be proved or a Will was never created, the processes can be long & strenuous, in a time where many are struggling & need time to mourn. We have worked closely with many clients to support them & help take care of all of the legal actions needed to complete the processes.

The administration of estates can be a confusing process for many, often a Grant of Probate is required when an estate is valued over £5, 000. The Executor will have a duty to collect the deceased’s assets & administer them according to law. We can help you to understand all of these processes & what the Executor must go onto to do after, whilst helping to avoid a breach of their duties.

If someone dies having made a Will a Grant of Probate may be required if their estate is valued at over £5,000. In order to obtain a Grant of Probate it will be Executors’ duty to collect the deceased’s assets and administer the estate according to law. They must obtain date of death valuations of all assets and liabilities of the deceased at the date of death, complete the relevant Inheritance Tax forms, raise funds and settle any Inheritance Tax liability and then submit an application for the Grant of Probate. Once Probate is granted the Executor will need to collect in or sell all assets, settle all liabilities, including any outstanding tax, produce accounts to the beneficiaries of the Will, pay any income, legacies and residue to the correct beneficiaries.

If Executors breach their duties they can be held personally liable to the beneficiaries or creditors of the estate. We can advise on all aspects of the Executors’ role and how to carry out their duties correctly, to include ways of protecting the Executors where possible. We can also advise on any potential claims against the estate and how to protect Executors from future liability.

Whilst administering an estate may sound rather straightforward, there can be many difficulties in carrying out the administration of an estate correctly. Beyond Legal are experts in dealing with estates of all sizes particularly large and complex estates liable to Inheritance Tax. Beyond Legal offer a professional service to assist the Executors in carrying out the administration of the estate, advising them on their duties and ensuring the administration runs smoothly from beginning to end.

We are also able to advise on any Trusts contained within the Will as well as varying the terms of the Will in the event a beneficiary wishes to redirect all, or part, of their entitlement and the taxation implications to both the estate and the beneficiaries.

Grant of Representation Only Services

Alternatively, if you feel you have a straightforward estate to administer, we can assist you with the application for the Grant of Probate (or Grant of Letters of Administration for Estates where there is no Will) only. We can prepare the relevant Inheritance Tax form, advise upon any liability which may arise, the Executor’s duties at this stage and prepare the Oath for swearing.

We offer a free half hour consultation with our Solicitors and Legal Executives, so call today to book an appointment regarding any Will or Deceased Estate enquiry

Free Will Service

We have joined up with Cancer Research UK to provide a Free Wills service for those aged over 18 years old, as well as participating in local charities schemes to enable and ensure that every adult has a professionally drafted Will in place.

It is estimated that as much as 60% of the population do not have a valid Will. At Beyond Legal we want to help every adult to manage their affairs as efficiently and comprehensively a possible. We understand that this is a subject that many approach with some apprehension or anxiety, and therefore we are here to help make the process as efficient and as clear as possible for our clients – giving them the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their wishes will be properly taken into consideration; without incurring expensive legal costs. This is why our Free Will service is so important.

We are often asked ‘why is it so important to have a Will in place’. The overriding reason for doing so is simply to ensure that you, rather than the Government of the day, decides who is to receive the benefit of any estate you leave behind. There are of course other compelling reasons to ensure that you have a valid Will in place and the following gives some further points to consider;

  • On your death you will have died “intestate” if you have no Will in place. This can be painful for your loved ones who may suffer financial hardship and distress at a time when they least need it, whilst your affairs are sorted out. The administration of such an estate is costly, and therefore less will be left available for your beneficiaries to inherit.
  • If you are a parent of young children then without a Will you will have no control over who looks after them should anything happen to you. In such circumstances, the courts will appoint someone on your behalf – someone that you may not have chosen.
  • Your estate may have to pay a charge of inheritance tax.  If you make a Will you may be able to consider Inheritance Tax Planning in the Will to minimise your charge to Inheritance Tax.
  • Your estate may not pass entirely to your spouse due to the Rules of Intestacy. This can cause extreme financial difficulties for your spouse, and may mean that assets such as your house will need to be sold in order satisfy the Rules of Intestacy.
  • If you do not have any “close family” your estate may have to pay out large amounts in fees in tracing the relatives entitled to your estate under the rules of intestacy.  If you do not have any relatives then your estate may pass to the Crown and State instead of friends or charities you may have wished to benefit instead.
  • Without a Will, you may not be able to protect your loved ones from claims arising from Divorce, Bankruptcy or Care Home fee charges.

Trust Advice & Administration

Trusts are created for a variety of reasons, from tax & estate planning purposes to other issues such as asset protection. From creation to proper administration, we are experienced in working to each individual case when creating trusts. We will ensure that trust is robust enough to withstand any challenges & will end up meeting its objectives.

Care Home Fees & The Protection of Assets

Many people worry about going into a care home and ending up having to use their savings and assets towards payment of the fees.

One of the main concerns that people have is whether the value of their home will be taken into account when calculating care home fees. Your home will not be counted as capital if any of the following are still resident in the property:

  • Your spouse or civil partner or someone you live with as a partner
  • A close relative who is 60 or over or incapacitated
  • One of your children who is under 18
  • Your ex husband, ex wife, ex civil partner or ex partner if they are a single parent

Your council may also not choose to count your home as capital if your carer lives there.

If you go into a care home temporarily then you will not have a financial assessment for the first eight weeks of your stay. The local council will say what they think is a fair amount for you to pay for this time.

You should not deliberately deprive yourself of assets by transferring them to someone else to avoid nursing home fees as if the local council believes that you have done this they can still count what has been transferred as your assets when carrying out a financial assessment.

We can advise you on the options available to protect the value of your home and assets and the risks involved in any transfers being considered.

We can also assist in protecting half of the value of your property under the terms of your Will via the severance of any joint tenancy and creating a trust in your will leaving your half share in the house to someone other than your spouse.

If you are concerned about any financial assessment that has already been carried out on family or friends that are receiving nursing care we can advise if they have been assessed correctly and also provide advice on NHS Continuing Care and claims for top up payments.

What If There Is No Valid Will?

We advise everyone to make a Will to ensure their estate is distributed in accordance with their wishes.  However, many people do not make a Will and their estate is distributed in accordance with the Intestacy Rules:

Surviving Spouse and no Surviving Issue

The spouse will be entitled to the whole estate.

Surviving Spouse and Surviving Issue

When there is a surviving spouse and surviving children the spouse is entitled to:

  • the personal chattels;
  • £250,000 net free of Inheritance Tax and costs; and
  • One half of the residuary estate

The remaining half of the residuary estate passes to the surviving issue.

No Surviving Spouse but Surviving Issue

All children will each receive a share of the estate.  This is held on the statutory trusts until such time as each child reaches the age of 18 and attains a vested interest.  If a child does not attain a vested interest and has no children of their own then that share is divided equally between the remaining children in equal shares.

No surviving Spouse and No Surviving Issue

In the event that you do not have a surviving spouse or children then there is an order of entitlement.  If there is no-one in a category then the next category must be considered:

  • Parents in equal shares
  • Brothers and sisters of the whole blood or their issue if they have not survived;
  • Brothers and sisters of the half blood or their issue if they have not survived;
  • Grandparents in equal shares;
  • Uncles and aunts of the whole blood or their issue if they have not survived;
  • Uncles and aunts of the half blood or their issue if they have not survived.

If there is one surviving relative in a category they will receive the whole estate excluding anyone in a lower category.

If there is no surviving relatives in the above categories then the estate passes to the Crown, Duchy of Lancaster or Duke of Cornwall.

Let’s talk about wills & probate matters

We’d love to talk to you about how we can help. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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